Category Archives: Wars of the Roses

Katherine Neville, Duchess of Norfolk and her toy boy.

Joan BeaufortKatherine Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville  earl of Westmorland and his second wife Joan Beaufort, was married first to John Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk.  The pair had only one child – a boy named John.  He’s the chap who turned up late to Towton in Easter 1461 and helped the Yorkists to win.  He died in 1461and was succeeded by his son also named John – this particular Duke of Norfolk as well as being Katherine Neville’s grandson was also the one who had the on-going feud with the Paston family about Caistor Castle.

Meanwhile Katherine had been married off to Thomas Strangeways with whom she had two children; Joan and Katherine.  I posted about Katherine earlier in the week. After Strangeways died Katherine Neville married for a third time to John, Viscount Beaumont.   He was a member of the Lincolnshire gentry and a trusted Lancastrian advisor.  He was Constable of England between 1445 and 1450. It was in this capacity helped make the arrest of Good Duke Humphrey back in 1447 and he had been around for Jack Cade’s Rebellion which came about partially as a result of the disastrous French campaign. By 1460 he was part of Henry VI’s bodyguard – this position was to cost him his life  on the 10 July when the Lancastrians lost the Battle of Northampton.

The Earl of Warwick returned from Calais where he had gone after fleeing the scene of Ludford Bridge the previous year and demanded to  see the king.  This was denied him.  His army marched north from Kent whilst Henry VI’s army came south.  The Lancastrians camped at Delapre Abbey with their backs to the River Nene.  Lord Grey of Ruthin ordered his men to lay down their weapons.  It turns out that one of the reasons he changed sides was over a property dispute.  The Earl of Warwick’s men were able to get to the very heart of Henry VI’s camp where John Beaumont was killed. His death is recorded in John Stone’s Chronicle.  History also has his will which was made four years previously in 1456 – a sensible precaution given the unsettled nature of the times.

In 1465 – Katherine then aged sixty-five was provided with a new spouse by Edward IV.  Her groom was one of Elizabeth Woodville’s brothers – John, aged just nineteen.  The marriage was scandalous at the time and there are various tales told after the fall of the Woodvilles which suggest that she was not so keen on the idea. One chronicler described the whole affair as “diabolical-” though admittedly the writer William of Worcester did think that Katherine was closer to eighty than sixty. It has been suggested that this marriage was one of the straws which broke the Earl of Warwick’s loyalty to his cousin.

It all seems a bit odd when all is said and done. Katherine was aunt to both the earl of Warwick and Edward IV.  When Edward was crowned Katherine was present with Edward’s mother, Duchess Cecily of Raby, who was after all her sister. It can’t have helped that Katherine’s fourth husband was the same age as her grandson from her first marriage who doesn’t seem to have regarded the marriage favourably either – it should be remembered that his grandmother held a considerable portion of the Norfolk estates as part of her dower – which John Woodville now benefitted from.  Most historians are of the view that it all came down to providing wealth and status to the Woodville clan.  Certainly John benefitted financially from his marriage to Katherine and even gained land from William Beaumont, her step-son from her third marriage, who was as Lancastrian as his father.

John Woodville was executed in 1469 by the Earl of Warwick  and George Duke of Clarence who had joined in rebellion against Edward.  John was with his father who was also executed. History does not record Katherine Neville’s view on her bereavement.

Katherine survived until 1483 – possibly with the help of various medications prescribed by the king’s apothecary John Clark which she did not pay for – a case was presented to the Court of Common Pleas on the matter.  Robes were issued so that she could play her role in Richard III’s coronation. There is no further record of Katherine nor do we know where she is buried.

The image that I have used for the last few posts depicting Joan Beaufort with her daughters comes from the Neville Book of Hours

Kleineke, Hannes (2015) “The Medicines of Katherine, Duchess of Norfolk, 1463–71” in Medical History 2015: Oct; 59(4): 511-524

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Joan Beaufort’s descendants – Katherine Strangeways

Joan BeaufortJoan’s daughter Katherine married John Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk when she was about twelve.  He died in 1432.  Katherine then remarried to Thomas Strangeways of Castle in Yorkshire.  It can be supposed that Katherine’s second marriage which seems a bit of an odd one for a duchess to make says more about the Nevilles’ political aspirations in the north than anything else.  The Strangeways family was an important one within the Yorkshire and Durham gentry.  The name features as justice of the peace during the period- clearly the Neville family sought to create a powerful political affinity through a series of marital alliances.

Katherine (the dowager duchess of Norfolk) and Thomas had two daughters: Joan and Katherine.  I am pleased to report that there is not a great deal I wish to write about Joan. She married Sir William Willoughby of Lincolnshire – which if nothing else identifies the way in which the network of gentry and aristocratic families spread beyond county boundaries forming affiliations.

Katherine, Joan Beaufort’s grand-daughter, on the other hand was married off to Henry Grey, Baron Grey of Codnor in 1454 just before the Wars of the Roses escalated from a political feud into an actual war.  His location in Codnor,  a powerful member of Derbyshire’s gentry, reflects links between the Neville family and the wider Lancaster affinity first created by John of Gaunt – though it must have been complicated even then by the fact that Grey’s mother was a member of the Percy family- the Nevilles’ and the Percies’ feud with one another had led to the so-called Battle of Heworth Moor on 24 August 1453 when the Percy family headed by Lord Egremont attacked a Neville wedding party to celebrate the marriage of Sir Thomas Neville to Maud Stanhope. Thomas Neville, the groom, was  our Katherine Strangeways’ cousin.

Henry Grey, conflict between his own extended family and his family through marriage aside, tends to turn up in most popular accounts about the Wars of the Roses as an example of local feuding impacting on national politics.  I know that I’ve posted about him before but in all honesty I’ve never given much thought to his wife or the fact that she was the great grand-daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. Essentially Grey started off as a Lancastrian – hence the marriage.  He was on the Lancastrian side at the Second Battle of St. Albans in 1461.  However, after the Battle of Towton in 1461 he swiftly made his peace with Yorkist Edward IV and thereafter entered the lists as a loyal Yorkist.

Henry Grey  was less interested in the national picture than in what was happening in his own backyard. He had his own local feud with the Vernons of Haddon Hall to keep him out of mischief and in 1467 a member of the Vernon family, Roger (he was Henry Vernon’s uncle for those of you who know these things), managed to get himself killed after a series of unfortunate events in Belper where he was a squire.  Locally it is said that there was a battle fought at Codnor between the Greys and the Vernons as a result of Roger’s death.

George, Duke of Clarence who had acquired large portions of the land in the area as part of his inheritance (remember he is descended from John of Gaunt- the Cousins War is well named) favoured the Vernon family despite the fact that they had fought against the Yorkists.  Edward IV was said to have favoured the Grey family.  In any event the Earl of Shrewsbury  eventually fined both parties and told them to stop killing one another but this was only after the Duke of Clarence had failed to get them to keep the peace and both sides had attempted to nobble the jury.

In 1471, partly as a result of the rumbling aftereffects of the death of Roger Vernon, Grey managed to get himself in even more hot water by inciting a riot in Nottingham.  Grey was summoned to London where Edward IV asked some very difficult questions.  By this stage an act had been passed trying to prevent local magnates from keeping their own bands of armed retainers – not that it seemed to have much effect.

By then it would have to be said that Henry Grey had got the hang of killing people as he turned up  for the concluding battles of the Wars of the Roses – at Barnet, Tewkesbury, Bosworth and Stoke. It was only at Stoke in 1487 that he fought for the Lancastrian cause. Edward IV had even appointed him to office in Ireland (not that it went particularly well) so it is interesting that Henry VII not only granted him land but gave him a licence to work with metals.

After Katherine died Henry Grey remarried twice more. His third wife, also and rather inconveniently named Katherine married Edward IV’s nephew William de la Pole -meaning that she was married to a man marked as a potential Yorkist contender to the throne,  taking us in one of those ever decreasing historical circles that I like so much. Though the good news for readers of this post is that Katherine Strangeways and Henry Grey didn’t have any children.

Katherine Strangeways’ mother the dowager duchess of Norfolk from her first marriage to John Mowbray would marry twice more. Both her third and fourth husbands have their part to play in the Wars of the Roses – her last marriage being described as “diabolical” by her contemporaries – guess what I’m posting about tomorrow? There are no rewards for anyone who has worked out who Katherine Neville ended up marrying or what the scandal was – but I can guarantee that some of you will exhale and think – ‘well, why didn’t she say at the start of this whole unravelling of Katherine Neville’s family?’

Weir, Alison. (2008) Britain’s Royal Families. London: Vintage Books


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Joan Beaufort – a family divided

Joan Beaufort.jpg

Joan Beaufort (pictured above with her daughters from her second marriage), the only daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford was married twice.  Her first marriage to Robert Ferrers, 2nd Baron Ferrers of Wem in 1391 reflects an affiliation within the Lancaster affinity and was a suitable match for the illegitimate daughter of a duke.  The pair had two daughters as shown on the family tree below.  The name of the second daughter is Margaret, Mary or Maud depending upon the source that you read – Burke’s Peerage gives it as Mary.

Joan Beaufort family tree1Ferrers died at the beginning of 1396 as John of Gaunt was clearing the way to marry  Katherine Swynford. It meant that Joan soon became engaged to Sir Ralph Neville of Raby, the first Earl of Westmorland and a suitable match for the legitimate daughter of a duke.

As Joan and Ferrers only had daughters the Wem title went back up the family tree, in this case to his mother’s third husband whilst the daughters of the marriage became co-heiresses.

Elizabeth, the elder of the siblings, married John, the fourth Baron Greystoke at Greystoke Church in Cumberland in 1407.  Again sources vary but it appears that they had eleven or twelve children – they are not all identified on the family tree for obvious reasons.  Elizabeth’s eldest son Ralph succeeded his father as Fifth Baron Greystoke in 1436. He served in Henry VI’s parliaments from that time onwards as well as serving on commissions to deal with the relations between England and Scotland. Given the northern nature of Greystoke’s power base the family were adherents of the Percy family however it is also true to say that he came under the patronage of his mother’s half-brother the Earl of Salisbury with the passage of time – which ultimately must have led to a conflict of interests from the Greystoke family as Henry VI’s reign deteriorated into conflict between various cousins with royal blood somewhere in their veins allied either to Henry and Lancaster or Richard and York.

Elizabeth Ferrer’s only Greystoke grandson, Sir Robert, married another Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Grey of Ruthyn who was Lord High Treasurer and elevated to the Earldom of Kent during the Yorkist period. Robert predeceased his father so Ralph was succeeded by his grand-daughter Elizabeth – who does not appear on the family tree. She married Thomas Dacre of Gilsland.

In the context of the Wars of the Roses this information can be seen as follows – the Greystokes were a family with Lancastrian affinities in terms of ancestry and loyalty. Ralph Greystoke, Elizabeth Ferrer’s son, was part of the entourage that accompanied Margaret of Anjou to England for her wedding to Henry VI. To all intents and purposes Greystoke married his son into another Lancastrian family – the Greys of Ruthyn. This was complicated by local rater than national politics and blood ties to Richard Earl of Salisbury who supported the claims of his brother-in-law Richard of York – another member of the extended Greystoke family,  both Salisbury and York being Ralph Greystoke’s uncles and Robert Greystoke’s great-uncles – the first by blood and the second by marriage to Cecily Neville (there’s another family tree coming any day now).

Meanwhile Edmund Grey, Robert Greystoke’s father-in-law, had served in France during the 1430s and was seen as supporting Henry VI during the 1450s. He even declared himself as the king’s man during the Coventry Parliament of 1459 – this was the parliament that attainted Richard of York of treason along with the Nevilles (to whom of course the Greystokes were related and had been affiliated locally since the 1430s).


On the 10th July 1460, Edmund Grey commanded the right flank of the Lancastrian King’s army at the Battle of Northampton. He and his men changed sides as the battle got under way. Grey’s men permitted the Yorkists through their lines into the heart of King Henry VI’s camp. It turns out that this wasn’t a spur of the moment action as the Yorkist Earl of Warwick had forewarned his men to spare anyone wearing Grey’s symbol of the black ragged staff.  Edmund Grey was rewarded with the Earldom of Kent, became England’s treasurer under the Yorkist regime, was at Richard III’s coronation and continued to hold his titles even when Henry VII claimed the throne.


Without wishing to send anyone cross-eyed with the complication of relationships and disparate loyalties it is also interesting to note that the Greystokes were related through marriage to the Welles family meaning that they also had links to Margaret Beaufort through her mother’s third marriage to Lionel the 6th Lord Welles.  Lionel’s mother was Maud Greystoke – the sister-in-law of Elizabeth Ferrers, who was, just in case you’d forgotten, the daughter of Joan Beaufort by her first husband.

Oh and while I’m thinking about it Lady Elizabeth Greystoke who inherited the barony of Greystoke from her grandfather Ralph Greystoke and  who married Thomas Dacre of Gilsland is my husband’s fourteen times great grandmother, meaning rather unfortunately, that his sixteen times great grandfather was a bit of a turncoat. In turn it means that he is also descended from Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt as well as King John… I don’t know about you but I think I’m in need of a lay down in a darkened room or a strong drink after all of that!

Wagner, John A. (2001). Encyclopaedia of the Wards of the Roses.  Oxford: ABC Clio


Filed under The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

The House of Lancaster part III: The Beauforts


On 24 March 1394 Constance of Castile died at Leicester Castle.  She was interred in the church of St Mary in the Newark.  In 1396 John of Gaunt wrote a letter to Pope Boniface explaining that he and Katherine Swynford desired to marry and asked for a dispensation because he was Blanche Swynford’s godfather.  A dispensation was duly granted – the pope noting that John and Katherine already had offspring. John of Gaunt’s relationship with Katherine Swynford had resulted in four children  during the course of their affair which started after John of Gaunt’s first wife had died and Katherine’s husband had died in France.  In January 1396 John married Katherine “from affection to their children” according to Froissart – who as Weir notes seems unable to comprehend that a duke might marry for love.  The following year the Beauforts were legitimised by the Church and by parliament through Richard II’s charter.

John Beaufort was enabled in February 1397 and in the same year he acquired a wealthy wife in the form of Margaret Holland.  Margaret was Richard II’s cousin via his mother (Joan of Kent) and her first family.  John repaid Richard II’s generosity by helping to condemn the Duke of Gloucester, the Earl of Arundel and the Earl of Warwick of treason.  The Duke of Gloucester, Richard II’s youngest uncle was murdered in Calais before he could be arrested – it was put out that he had died but the rumours were swift to fly.  The Earl of Arundel was executed and the Earl of Warwick was banished.  As a result of this successful outcome John Beaufort was elevated from being an earl to a marquess.

There were other promotions as four new earldoms were created at the same time.  Ralph Neville, Lord of Middleham and Raby became the Earl of Westmorland.  He had become engaged to John Beaufort’s sister Joan in November 1396.  On one hand it could be said that Richard II was rewarding loyalty and punishing treachery – on the other hand it does look, in hindsight, remarkably like bribery on a huge scale.

There can be no doubting the tension within the country as Richard became increasingly unpredictable and life must have become difficult for the marquess when his half-brother, Henry of Bolingbroke, was banished.  John was on good terms with his half brother so seems to have had no difficulty in swapping his allegiance from cousin Richard to brother Henry when Henry returned to England and became King Henry IV.

John’s family would continue to be involved in English politics.  They were, after all, family.  They also owed everything to their definitely legitimate half sibling who carefully changed Richard II’s charter to make it clear that although the Beauforts were legitimate that they might never inherit the throne.  Given that Henry IV had a healthy brood of sons it seemed unlikely at the time that he wrote his addition in the margins that it would have much relevance.  John Beaufort’s sons and sons-in-law would be involved in the running of the kingdom during Henry VI’s minority.  John’s son Edmund would be suspected of wanting to marry his cousin Henry V’s widow and there are some historians who speculate that Katherine of Valois had to marry Owen Tudor in order to ensure that she didn’t become the mother of another illegitimate Beaufort baby. John’s grandsons would die on battlefields across England and be dragged to their execution by triumphant Yorkists until in the end only a single girl would remain with the name Beaufort – his eldest son, also called John, having died in 1444 as a suspected suicide resulting from the shame of his military blunders in France.

Meanwhile John of Gaunt and Katherine’s third son Thomas who had a place within Henry of Bolingbroke’s retinue would benefit from Richard II’s revenge against the Lords Appellants in that he was granted lordship of Castle Acre which had been in the hands of Thomas Mowbray.  Thomas Beaufort would retain his place in his half-brother’s affinity and become a confidant of young Henry of Monmouth (to be Henry V) and would campaign with him against the Welsh and Owen Glendower.  He would go to France with Henry V and he would be wounded at Harfleur.  Thomas was elevated to the dukedom of Exeter for his loyalty to Henry V but although he married his son did not live long and that line of Beauforts died out.  He reflects the fact that the first generation of Beaufort boys were part of the Lancaster affinity. After their father’s death their loyalty belonged to their half-brother.

Henry Beaufort, the second Beaufort son born to John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford,  also benefited from his family’s respectability when he became Bishop of Lincoln in February 1398.  He was just twenty-three years old.  He would become Bishop of Winchester in 1405 and a Cardinal in 1426.  He would dominate the political scene becoming a pivot on Henry VI’s regency council between his half-nephews Humphrey of Gloucester who governed domestic affairs and John of Bedford who conducted the war in France and governed England’s French territories.

Joan Beaufort is the only daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.  Her first marriage to Robert Ferrers of Wem reflects her status as an illegitimate child of a duke.  Robert was part of the Lancaster affinity.  By giving his daughter in marriage to the 2nd Baron Ferrers John of Gaunt bound the baron more closely to the affinity and elevated his daughter to a position of gentility.  The pair had two daughters.  One, Elizabeth married  John Greystoke and the second called Margaret, Mary or Margery depending upon the source married her step-brother Sir Ralph Neville – a son of Joan Beaufort’s second husband Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland – which must have been complicated as the first family of the Earl of Westmorland did not much like the children of his second marriage to Joan Beaufort.

You will note that there are sheets 2 and 3 to follow as I could not fit all fourteen of Joan Beaufort’s children with the Earl of Westmorland on to this particular family tree.  In some respects it is perhaps just as well that they are not represented here,  as these children help to cloud the issue of red and white rose – Richard Neville became the Earl of Salisbury.  His son was the Kingmaker.  One daughter, Ann, married the Duke of Buckingham.  Her second son married his Beaufort cousin Margaret and appears at the bottom right hand side of the family tree at the start of this post. Another daughter married the Earl of Northumberland, whilst the most famous of Joan’s daughters, Cecily, married Richard of York and was mother to the two Yorkist kings – Edward IV and Richard III demonstrating that the Wars of the Roses really was a war between cousins.

Sheet 3 identifies the descendant’s of the first earl’s daughter also named Joan.  Her story, like her grandmother’s, is a love story.  Her royal children married into the Scottish nobility and into continental royalty becoming dauphinesses, duchesses and archduchesses.  Her son was James II of Scotland meaning that when James VI of Scotland became James I of England the five times great grandson of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford sat upon the throne (if I’ve counted correctly)….I keep telling you that everyone powerful in English History is related.



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The House of Lancaster – the basics


The House of Lancaster - kingsi.jpgThis afternoon I’ve been learning how to convert a word document into a jpeg.  It is rather a straight forward process as it turns out.  The word document needs to be saved as a pdf which can then be saved as a jpeg.  I am therefore a very happy woman and well under way with planning the first part of the forthcoming day school on the Beaufort  family.

Here then is a brief reminder of why the House of Lancaster ended up wearing the crown.

Edward III was a long lived king.  He became king in 1327, at the age of 14, when his father Edward II “abdicated” at the suggestion of Edward III’s mother Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer, Earl of March.  Three years later Edward III overthrew his regents and took charge of his kingdom. In part it was because Edward was now a young man but other factors must have included the fact that Roger Mortimer’s military campaign in Scotland didn’t go terribly well and there was the all important factor that Isabella of France had become pregnant with Mortimer’s child.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out that with Mortimer in charge that Edward III was a hindrance to perhaps placing his own child upon the throne.  Edward became involved in a coup of his own. Men loyal to Edward III burst in to Nottingham Castle through a secret passage and arrested Mortimer who was promptly carted off to London where he was executed. Alison Weir speculates that the child that Isabella was carrying was either still born or miscarried.  There certainly isn’t any further reference to an illegitimate child of the queen’s.

Meanwhile Edward III had married, the year after he became king in name only, Philippa of Hainhault. Edward and Philippa had thirteen children not all of whom survived infancy which is rather impressive since Edward III was busy governing his kingdom and launching the Hundred Years War base don the fact that his mother was a french princess, there was a vacancy and no one had explained salic law to him.   In addition to his heir, also called Edward (of Woodstock) and whom History knows as the Black Prince he had four other sons who lived into adulthood. Edward wished to ensure that all his sons were well provided for so turned them into dukes and ensured that they were all married to heiresses.

Unfortunately the Black Prince instead of settling down to beget plentiful heirs of his own became embroiled in a love story to compete with that of his younger brother John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.  He settled his heart upon Joan of Kent who was the granddaughter of Edward I and his second wife (Margaret of France).  Young Joan or the Fair Maid of Kent as she is sometimes called had a bit of a reputation.  The Black Prince aside from being quite closely related to her was her third husband – husbands one and two had both been alive at the same time and there had been quite some scandal over the whole affair when she selected the knight Thomas Holland to be her spouse rather than the heir of the Earl of Salisbury. She had several children but only one child, Richard of Bordeaux, who survived infancy with her third husband the Black Prince.  The Holland children and their descendants turn up throughout the Wars of the Roses having married into various families adding to the general sense of internecine quarrelling.

The Black Prince careered around France, irritating the French, winning battles and inconveniently dying of dropsy in 1376 the year before his father which meant that the heir to the throne was a nine-year-old boy with four wealthy adult male uncles…and for those readers who enjoy a good pantomime this was clearly not a good position to be in.

It says something for the stability of the kingdom that Richard II became king in 1377 aged just ten.  Four years later the Peasants were revolting and Richard showed his metal by riding out to meet their leader Wat Tyler at Mile End and then at Smithfield.  The rebellion was unsuccessful and this is not the post to explore it any further. Let’s just say that the reign didn’t go well after a promising early start.

Richard’s lords, the so-called Lords Appellant plotted against him.  One of the men was his uncle – Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester.  He would have a nasty accident in Calais with a mattress which suffocated him on his nephew’s orders. Another uncle Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence was already dead – poisoned it would appear by his Italian father-in-law. The Duke of York (Edmund of Langley) kept his nose clean and receives mention in Richard II’s will as a potential heir along with Lionel’s grandson by his only child Philippa who married Roger Mortimer, Earl of March (a descendent of Isabella of France’s lover)- which just leaves us with the most powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.  Everyone believed that Gaunt wanted to be king but he was never anything but loyal to his nephew.

The same can not be said of Gaunt’s eldest son, Henry of Bolingbroke (the Earl of Derby). Henry had joined the Lords Appellant in 1387 to plot against Richard who bided his time until he had gained sufficient power to take his revenge.  Henry meanwhile had learned the error of his ways and John of Gaunt had returned from making his claim to the throne of Castile to help keep order in the family. Henry of Bolingbroke reported an alleged treasonous comment in 1398 made by Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk.  The pair were to fight a duel at Coventry but Richard changed his mind and banished Mowbray for life.  Henry was banished for a period of ten years, ostensibly to avoid further blood shed.  The following year John of Gaunt died and rather than send the revenue from the Lancaster estates to his cousin Henry, Richard II now took the opportunity to banish Henry of Bolingbroke for life and claim all of his uncle’s lands.  Richard had cousin Henry’s young son, also called Henry with him as a hostage for Henry of Bolingbroke’s good behaviour when he sailed off to Ireland to deal with the Irish.

Henry of Bolingbroke, now returned to England claiming that he wanted nothing more than what was rightfully his. He swiftly gained sufficient power to claim the kingdom for himself and bingo Henry of Bolingbroke, a.k.a the Earl of Derby transformed overnight into King Henry IV (though he did spend the rest of his life looking one this shoulder for potential plotters and assassins).  Richard II was carted off to Pontefract Castle where someone (Thomas Swynford as it happens) forgot to feed him and he died. Young Henry the hostage would turn into Henry V,

The house of Lancaster now seemed secure on the throne as Henry IV had many sons. Unfortunately his eldest son Henry V contracted dysentery and died leaving a nine month old child, also called Henry on the throne. After a while the hold of the House of Lancaster unravelled – Henry VI aside from not wanting to thrash the French actually married one of them, failed to produce an heir for such a long time that when Prince Edward finally turned up there were plenty of rumours about paternity.  It didn’t help that Henry VI had suffered a mental breakdown and was incapable of ruling let alone acknowledging his son.

The descendants of all those dukes began to look back up their family trees.  Factions formed and it was one short step from angry words to drawn swords on various battle fields.  Ultimately Prince Edward of Lancaster would died at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 meaning that the house of Lancaster would have to look back up its own family tree for a potential heir.

Henry V’s brothers were as follows:

Thomas who died in 1421 at the Battle of Bauge.  He had no legitimate children.

John, the Duke of Bedford who took over the campaign and governance in France after the death of his brother Henry V.   He had been married twice for reasons of allegiance, firstly to Anne of Burgundy and then to Jacquetta of Luxembourg (yes, that one who was mother of Elizabeth Woodville).  Neither wife had produced a little scion of the house of Lancaster.

Humphrey, the Duke of Gloucester who took over ruling in England on behalf of his little nephew Henry VI counterbalanced by the child’s half great-uncle Cardinal Beaufort.  Humphrey is known as the “Good Duke.”  His first wife was Jacqueline of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault (all very useful for waging war against the French).  The marriage was annulled  and Humphrey married his mistress Eleanor Cobham.  In 1441 Humphrey’s grip on political power was removed when his wife was convicted of witchcraft and the pair were forcibly divorced.  There were no children and Humphrey died unexpectedly in 1447…possibly from poison.

For the House of Lancaster to continue to vie for the throne after the death of Henry Vi and his son in 1471 it would have to look elsewhere for its sprigs – which is, of course, where the House of Beaufort comes into the equation.

Meanwhile there’s always an opportunity for spotting heraldic devices on modern pubs.  The white hart was Richard II’s favoured heraldic device whereas Henry IV used several including the fettered swan of his wife Mary de Bohun.  Henry V sometimes used the fettered swan as well.  And then of course there is Henry VI’s spotted panther  incensed (means its shooting flames) which is rather wonderful but which so far as I am aware does not feature as a pub.



Filed under Kings of England, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

Jacquetta and Sir Richard Woodville – Yorkists

Plate 4--Garter Stall Plate earl riversSir Richard Woodville (Lord Rivers) and his eldest son Sir Anthony were men in trouble in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton fought at Eastertide 1461.  They were Lancastrians who within six weeks of the battle found themselves attainted of treason and their lands confiscated.

By July 12 1462 Lord Rivers was pardoned.  It would appear from the correspondence of the time that Jacquetta had a hand in the changing state of affairs.   By 1463 Lord Rivers had found a place in the Privy Council.

Even more unexpectedly perhaps the new king married the couple’s eldest daughter the recently widowed Elizabeth Grey – who history knows as Elizabeth Woodville in May 1464.  Presumably Edward knew that marrying a penniless Lancastrian widow wouldn’t go down well with Warwick, especially as Edward had been in Calais in 1460 when Lord Rivers had been paraded through the town and rated as a “knave.”  Perhaps this was why Edward failed to mention the fact of his marriage to his cousin.

Elizabeth was crowned on May 26 1465.  There was a lot of emphasis placed upon Elizabeth’s maternal pedigree. In February 1466 the couple’s first child was born.    Between 1463 and 1483 the Woodvilles would rise in power and political dominance.    The earl of Warwick realised this would be at the expense of the Nevilles within week’s of Elizabeth Woodville’s public acknowledgement as between 1464 and 1466 Elizabeth arranged the marriage of many of her siblings into the richest and most powerful families in the land starting with the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister to the heir of the earl of Arundel.  Personally Warwick would not have been amused when the match he arranged between his nephew George and Anne Holland, heiress to the earldom of Exeter was overturned so that Anne could marry Elizabeth’s oldest son Thomas Grey.  Warwick’s aunt the dowager duchess of Norfolk (Katherine Neville) found herself married to nineteen year old John Woodville.  The duchess would have qualified for her bus pass at the time.  I could go on but you get the gist – there were a certain number of heirs and heiresses available and the Woodvilles swamped the market.

It was undoubtedly the rise of the Woodvilles that contributed to Warwick’s decision to turn against Edward in 1469. Not only had the family married above themselves so far as he was concerned but Sir Richard had ousted Lord Mountjoy (who just so happened to be the earl of Warwick’s uncle by marriage) from the position of treasurer in 1466.  Matters probably weren’t helped when the following year he was elevated to being Constable of England.

Warwick broke away from Edward in 1469 giving his association with low born men like earl (yes that’s right there was a promotion as well) as one of his reasons.  The two had apparently reconciled their differences earlier but a northern rebellion led by Robin of Redesdale was actually the earl of Warwick’s doing.  In addition the earl was plotting with Edward’s brother George duke of  Clarence.  The whole thing only came into the open when George married Isobel Neville (Warwick’s oldest daughter) on 11 July in Calais.  Edward suddenly discovered that not only was he facing an army of rebels from the north but that Warwick and Clarence had arrived in Sandwich and were marching with a second army having been allowed into London and “borrowed” some money from the City.  Edward was caught between two armies and became reliant on the earls Pembroke and Devon to raise an army on his behalf.

It didn’t go well for Edward or his earls for that matter.  On 26th July 1469   The earl of Pembroke’s army was intercepted by Warwick at Edgecote near Banbury and bested at the river crossing there.   The army might have fought on but Pembroke’s men seeing more of Warwick’s forces arriving assumed that the earl’s army was much larger than it really was.   William Herbert, the earl of Pembroke was captured and executed the following day.  The earl of Devon was also executed as were a number of Edward IV’s other key supporters.

Edward was happily oblivious to all of this being ensconced in Nottingham at the time when he left the city on the 29th July he was captured by Bishop George Neville at Olney and now found himself in the situation of Henry VI – i.e. in need of protection from bad advisers – or more correctly a prisoner.  By August he was resident in Warwick’s castle at Middleham and Elizabeth Woodville was firmly situated in Westminster with her children in sanctuary.

Where were the Woodvilles in all of this?  Sir Richard and his second son John were in Edward IV’s army.  They fled the went into hiding.  They were found in August at Chepstow and executed on the 12th August 1469 at Kennilworth.

That same month one Richard Wake accused Woodville’s widow Jacquetta of being a witch.  The earl of Warwick had Jacquetta arrested and taken to Warwick Castle.  Jacquetta did not panic.  Instead she wrote a letter to the mayor and aldermen of London calling in a favour.  George duke of Clarence became involved and Warwick for whatever reason seemed to get cold feet about the whole business and released her.  She very sensibly joined Elizabeth claiming sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.

The witchcraft case only failed ultimately because Edward was able to escape his cousin’s clutches in 1470 and the family disagreement patched up (for the time being).  On the 10th February 1470 it was added to the record books that the dowager duchess of Bedford was not in fact a witch and that her accusers were malicious trouble makers.  The story came out of the woodwork again in 1484 when Richard III wanted to use the tale against the Woodvilles – it can be seen in the Titulus Regulus.

Since then much has been made by fiction writers of Jacquetta’s magical abilities from blowing up storms to arranging for a nasty fog.  However, in reality the lady’s biggest mistake was to be an educated woman at a time when being able to read was suspect and being the mother of the most hated family in England (by some powerful factions in any event) did not help.  In the previous generation Good Duke Humphrey’s wife, Eleanor Cobham, was accused of witchcraft as a ploy to bring down Humphrey whilst Henry IV’s second wife Joan of Navarre was also accused of witchcraft – by her step-son no less- as a method of controlling her dower lands.

England did not remain long at peace.  By September 1470 Warwick and Clarence were in Lancastrian colours and Margaret of Anjou had invaded.  Jacquetta returned to sanctuary with Elizabeth and her grandchildren whilst Edward IV and Jacquetta’s son Anthony fled abroad.

Jacquetta died on the 30 May 1472.  She was fifty-six and like Katherine Swynford – her descendents would be English monarchs to this day.

Gregory, Philippa, Baldwin, David and Jones, Michael. (2011) Women of the Cousins’ War.  London: Simon and Schuster


Filed under Fifteenth Century, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

Jacquetta and Richard Woodville – Lancastrians.

Jacquetta of Luxembourg.jpgElizabeth Woodville was the oldest of fifteen children of whom thirteen survived to adulthood. Their father was Richard Woodville of Grafton in Northamptonshire.  The Woodvilles were gentry rather than aristocracy and served the house of Lancaster.  Richard Woodville and his father both served in the duke of Bedford’s household.

It was there that Richard met Elizabeth’s mother – Jacquetta of Luxembourg.  Her father was the Count of St Pol and the family were not only aristocratic but had been around long enough to claim to be descended from Melusine a serpent/witch.  A glance at the family tree reveals that the bloodlines of King John and King Henry III of England were in her ancestry. Jacquetta was the young bride of the duke of Bedford and as with is first marriage to Anne of Burgundy, Bedford’s marriage was a matter of international diplomacy.  When Bedford died in 1435 the pair had been married for two years.

Jacquetta was descended from an ancient line and the aunt of Henry VI by marriage.  She should not have remarried without royal permission and she certainly shouldn’t have married a household knight but that is exactly what the young widow did.

There was a price to be paid for the pair’s love match.  The fine was £1000.  The cash was provided by Cardinal Beaufort but it was not a generous gift.  Jacquetta had to part with lucrative dower lands- she had inherited one third of Bedford’s estates. More of the lands were confiscated by the Crown. The Woodvilles were noted afterwards for their swiftly growing family and for Richard Woodville’s links with the House of Lancaster – in particular the Beauforts.  Richard served in France under the dukes of Somerset in a variety of capacities.

It was not England’s finest hour so far as the Hundred Years War were concerned. It was a sensible decision to sue for peace.  In 1445 Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou.  It was not a decision that met with popular acclaim.  The bride came with no dowry and the English had to part with Anjou and Maine. Margaret, along with her personal symbol of the daisy, was met with hostility.  William de la Pole who had orchestrated the truce and the marriage was reviled.  Yet, a new faction formed in English politics.  De la Pole and the young french bride bonded on their journey to England,  Margaret was only sixteen and she must have welcomed  Jacquetta Woodville who joined the bridal party as a friendly face.  Margaret and Jacquetta became friends.  Margaret swiftly learned the ropes of English politics and set about neutralising the duke of York who she regarded as a threat.

Jacquetta’s position in society was an ambiguous one.  She might have been descended from royalty and as the dowager duchess of Bedfordshire she might have had no superior other than the new queen but she had relinquished that particular position by marrying down – a woman’s rank came from her father and when she married from her husband. This was complicated by the fact that having been married to a duke she kept the title duchess. It was perhaps in part to relieve this anomaly that plain Sir Richard became Baron Rivers in 1448.  The Woodvilles were on the rise at a time when English society and politics was undergoing a bit of a shakedown.

In 1447 Good Duke Humphrey, Henry VI’s remaining uncle found himself being toppled form power when his wife Eleanor Cobham was hauled before the courts on charges of witchcraft and plotting against the king’s life.  He died soon afterwards followed by Cardinal Beaufort the king’s great uncle.  William de la Pole appeared to be in the ascendant.  The king’s cousin, Richard of York, had been sidelined by a posting to Ireland.  The Peace Party, the duke of Suffolk and the Woodvilles were doing very nicely thank you. When Elizabeth Woodville was old enough she came to court as one of Margaret of Anjou’s maid’s of honour.

Elizabeth Woodville was from a gentry family – that was her father’s rank irrespective of who her mother might have been before she married.  Her marriage to Sir John Grey, heir of Edward Grey of Groby was a good match.  Thomas Grey, Elizabeth’s first child, had arrived within two years of the first battle of St Albans. Unsurprisingly the Greys were a Lancastrian family in terms of their politics.

Fortune’s Wheel was about to make a turn.  The war in France continued to go badly. Parliament was called – the duke of Suffolk was blamed for the military disasters and banished.  He was murdered en route to his banishment.  His death was one of the triggers to Cade’s Rebellion of 1450.

Meanwhile the Woodville’s continued to rise – Richard became a member of the Order of the Garter as well as a privy councillor. He became Lieutenant of Calais. He was still in Calais in May 1455 when the red rose and the white rose took to the field against one another.  Woodville’s “sponsor”, Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset was killed – Richard Neville took charge of Calais and Richard Woodville returned home.

elizabeth woodvilleIn 1461 Elizabeth Woodville’s husband was killed at the second battle of St Albans fighting on the Lancastrian side – the wrong side as it happened.  Elizabeth was left  widowed with two young sons and at loggerheads with her husband’s family over her dower. She had no alternative other than to petition the Yorkist king Edward IV – the result would see the Woodville’s turn from Lancastrians into Yorkists.




Filed under Fifteenth Century, Wars of the Roses

Ralph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer…Mr Moneybags.

brass of cromwell.jpgRalph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer to Henry VI, built a castle from brick in Lincolnshire complete with turrets, winding stair cases and baronial fireplaces. So who was he and what was so special about his castle and his other estates?

He was born sometime in the region of 1394 in Nottinghamshire at Lambley. He went to France as part of the duke of Clarence’s retinue in 1412. He was knighted by Henry V after Agincourt which took place on the 25th October 1415 – St Crispin’s Day for fans of Shakespeare. By 1417 Cromwell was on the rise in English Normandy.  He was one of the men who helped King Henry V to agree the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 which married Henry V off to Katherine of Valois and which would have made Henry king of France as well as England had he survived the rigours of the campaign. Later Cromwell would be sent to France to witness the execution of Joan of Arc.

By 1422 Cromwell had become sufficiently influential to gain a place on Henry VI’s regency council.  He appears to have been part of Cardinal Beaufort’s faction.  This is best demonstrated by the fact that from 1431-32 he served as Henry VI’s chamberlain.  The duke of Gloucester (or Good Duke Humphrey who I have posted about before) was overseas at the time.  As soon as Gloucester returned, Cromwell was issued with the medieval equivalent of his P45.

Henry VI’s other uncle, the duke of Bedford, appointed him treasurer of England in 1433.  He would go on to be the longest serving treasurer for almost a century. Of course, nothing is straight forward and the political factions of the time made life interesting on occasion.  The first thing he did was to tell Parliament about the king’s finances. The Crown was in debt to a tune of £168,000 and there was an annual hole of  £22,000 to also take into consideration.  Essentially Cromwell knew that Parliament needed to vote the Crown taxes but the problem was that Parliament voted taxes in times of warfare.  At other times the monarch was supposed to “live of his own.” In 1443 he retired on health grounds – but continued behaving has Lord Treasurer.  As the 1440s drew on he was increasingly hostile to William de la Pole, the duke of Suffolk and royal favourite.

In 1449 one of the duke’s henchmen attempted to assassinate him at Westminster.  William Tailbois escaped justice because the duke protected him. Ultimately the duke of Suffolk fell from power, was incarcerated in the Tower before being banished and then murdered. Worcester claims that it was Cromwell who instigated the impeachment against De la Pole. Tailbois was then briefly imprisoned for his role in trying to kill Cromwell and also fined. Just as an aside for those of you who like to know these things Tailbois can be spelled Tailboys or Talboys. Tailbois was a loyal Lancastrian and he would end up fleeing to Scotland in 1461 with Margaret of Anjou in the aftermath of Towton.  He would be a thorn in the Yorkist side until 1464 when he fought at Hexham, survived the battle only to be found and taken to newcastle where he was executed.

But back to the main thread of this post. It should  be mentioned that by 1449 the Crown debt had risen to a whopping £372,000.  Cromwell resigned.  This did not stop him, according to William of Worcester, travelling with a retinue of a hundred men. He was also appointed to a new job – Constable of Nottingham Castle.

As the 1450s dawned, Cromwell found himself charged with causing the problems which led to the first Battle of St Albans in May 1455. To be fair, his accusers had a point. William of Worcester recounts the fact that Cromwell’s niece was married to Thomas Neville in 1453.  Thomas Neville was a younger son of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury (Thomas, if you want further clarification was the Kingmaker’s little brother).  The bride was Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby. The incident appears in almost every publication about the events that led to the outbreak of fighting. Neville and Thomas Percy (Lord Egremont) were in mid feud at the time and it didn’t help that Cromwell had possession of rather a lot of Percy land.  The land had been forfeited because of the Percies involvement in rebellions against Henry IV – but they had long memories with regard to what they owned. The marriage between Maud and Thomas meant that the confiscated Percy land was ultimately going to end up in Neville hands. It went down like a lead balloon with Egremont who didn’t much like the groom in any event.  The wedding was set for the 24th August 1453.  The bridal party had to cross he worth Moor to reach Sherif Hutton.  Percy, his brother Richard and John Clifford (heir of Lord Clifford) made their plans.  In excess of a 1000 men attacked the wedding party on the moor. It wasn’t much more than a skirmish as no one was actually killed but it didn’t help relieve the tension.  It was, in fact, one of the sparks that led to war with the Duke of York taking sides with Neville, the Duke of Exeter with Percy.

Cromwell by this time had joined forces with the Duke of York although the Paston letters state that Cromwell did not arrive in time to take part in the first Battle of St. Albans.  As a result he was regarded with suspicion and even accused of treason by Warwick.

On a personal level the year was further clouded by the fact that Margaret died in the autumn of 1455 without any children.  There was no one other than his nieces, who now became co-heiresses, to leave his vast estates and wealth.

Tattershall CastleCromwell’s finances were in rather better shape than the monarch’s.  He made a good marriage (unlike Henry VI who married in return for peace but lost Maine and gained no dowry in the process much to the average Englishman’s disgust.  Henry VI even had to pawn the crown jewels to pay for the wedding.)  Cromwell’s wife was Margaret, Lady Deincourt – conveniently a wealthy co-heiress in her own right.  Tattershall Castle was his main residence which he inherited in 1419 but he owned the manor of South Wingfield in Derbyshire; Collyweston in Northamptonshire; Wymondham in Norfolk (hence the Paston interest) and had a quarrel with the duke of Exeter over the lordship of Ampthill in Bedfordshire and was involved as patron of the Foljambes of Walton near Chesterfield in a dispute about the Heriz inheritance that led to the murder of  Sir Henry Pierpoint’s brother-in-law in the church at Chesterfield. Cromwell, it should be noted, had a number of property disputes on the boil during his lengthy career.


One of particular note is that between Cromwell and Sir John Gra of North Ingleby (Lincolnshire). Essentially Gra had borrowed money from a range of people and had difficulty paying them back.  As was standard practise in return for a loan Gra effectively mortgaged his land. If the money was not all paid back by a specified day the land became the property of the lender. Cromwell, it should be added had a bit of a reputation for taking property on mortgage, or buying out a mortgage so that the debtor owed him the money rather than the original lender. He also had a reputation  for  not returning land when the loan was repaid even if it was repaid on time.   Anyway, in 1430 Gra had mortgaged Multon Hall in Lincolnshire to Thomas Morstead for a period of ten years.  In 1434 Cromwell purchased the debt from Morstead and took possession of Multon Hall.  Basically, as Richmond comments the Lord Treasurer of England was a loan shark.  Somehow or other Sir John Gra paid the money back in 1347 at St Paul’s Cathedral – so there could be no doubting that the debt had been repaid but the terms had changed with the change of lender.  Cromwell did not return the hall.  He noted that other promises had been made and they had not been fulfilled. The case went to the courts and completely unsurprisingly the important Lord Cromwell received judgement in his favour.  As though that weren’t bad enough Gra’s wife Margaret was not only estranged from her husband but had over time turned into an heiress. If she had children her inheritance would pass to them, if not the inheritance would revert in part down the family line – to none other than Ralph Cromwell.

Part of Margaret Gra’s inheritance was South Wingfield.  Gra was awarded a life interest in this property amongst others including the manors of nearby Tibshelf and Crich. He was also ordered to treat his wife with respect. Just before Gra’s wife died they appear to have been reconciled or at least to have reached an understanding. She made a will that left everything outright to her husband unfortunately for Gra it wasn’t legal.   The person he would have to contest ownership with was none other than Lord Ralph Cromwell.  The case went to court. The case is known as the Bellars Inheritance. Gra did not have the money for a protracted legal battle, nor was the law on his side, so settled out of court for forty marks a year.

Cromwell remodelled South Wingfield, turning it from a castle into a manor house surrounding a courtyard. There is an extensive account about its construction in the Archeological Journal (1985) by Emery. The rebuild was just a small part of an extensive building programme.  In 1439 Cromwell was given permission to create a collegiate church for the training of priests in Tattershall and to remodel the castle. The keep and moat of Tattershall is all that is left today along with a gatehouse and the footprint of a jousting ground. The fireplaces boast the Cromwell arms – of a well stuffed money bag.  His motto in French translates as “Have I not the right?” William of Worcester noted  “that the household consisted of a hundred persons.”  The cost of such a large household was about £5000 a year. The tower dominated the landscape and once inside the building petitioners would have to climb a winding stair case before walking the length of a corridor with an impressive vaulted ceiling before gaining admittance to the Great Hall.


He died on the 4th January 1456 probably at Collyweston, though South Wingfield  does get a mention but is buried at Tattershall in the collegiate church of Holy Trinity opposite the alms houses that he had built. He and his wife were childless so Cromwell’s estates ultimately reverted to the Crown.  Amongst his other works of family or piety depending upon your viewpoint was having the church at Lambley rebuilt along with a chantry chapel for his parents and grandparents.

Cromwell’s brass, pictured at the start of the post,  is difficult to see as it has to be  protected from the bats which in inhabit the church.


Hicks, Michael. (1991) Who’s Who in Late Medieval England. London: Shepherd-Walwyn.

Richmond, Colin. John Hopton: A Fifteenth Century Suffolk Gentleman



Filed under Fifteenth Century, Wars of the Roses

The Vernons of Haddon Hall – Sir Henry Vernon.

sir henry vernon.jpgI’ve posted before about Henry Vernon being a canny politician.  He was ordered to attend Richard III prior to the Battle of Bosworth but there is no evidence for him on the battlefield – on either side. Having been in good odour with Edward IV, the duke of Clarence and the earl of Warwick if the letters in the Rutland Archive are anything to go by it is a little surprising that Sir Henry did so well under the Tudors – In fact a study of a range of Vernon’s letters gives helpful insight into the changing politics of the period – which is exactly what I intend to do in a couple of weeks with my Wars of the Roses group, along with a peek at Sir Henry’s will.

Sir Henry was from a notable Derbyshire family. The Vernons had been part of the Lancaster Affinity in the fourteenth century. His grandfather, Sir Richard, had fought in the Hundred Years War and been made Treasurer of Calais.  He was also an MP for Derbyshire as was Henry’s father Sir William Vernon who died in 1467 when his son was about twenty-six.

The Battle of Towton took place at Easter 1461.  This event saw  Yorkist Edward taking the throne.  The power behind the throne was Edward’s cousin, Richard Neville, the earl of Warwick – a.k.a -the Kingmaker. Unfortunately the two Yorkist cousins had a falling out when Edward IV married the widow of Sir John Grey of Groby in secret. Elizabeth Woodville was not who the earl of Warwick envisaged as queen of England.  He had been negotiating for the hand of a French princess so felt a bit foolish.  Nor did it help that Elizabeth Woodville had a large family all of whom had to be found excellent positions within the establishment not to mention wealthy and titled spouses: let’s just say noses were put out of joint. The political situation became more tense. Ultimately in 1470 Edward IV was forced to flee and his wife and their daughters seek sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. In March 1471 Edward returned via Ravenspur and marched on London where he was greeted with popular acclaim. There then followed the battle of Barnet and the demise of the earl of Warwick and his brother Lord Montagu.  Clearly this is a rather brief outline but you get the gist!

So where was Sir Henry Vernon in all of this? He was the recipient of rather a lot of letters from various people who want this support.  He on the other hand appears to have taken a rather measured approach to the royal cousins charging around the countryside trying to slaughter one another.

Duke of Clarence to Henry Vernon, squire. (This was written when Warwick was in charge of the kingdom and Clarence had deserted his brother Edward’s cause thinking that Warwick was a better proposition! He’d married Warwick’s eldest daughter only to have Warwick marry off his other daughter to the Lancastrian Prince Edward – meaning that Clarence was no better off than he had been before and was regarded as a bit of a swine for doing the dirty on his brother.)

1470, Oct. 4, Tewkesbury.

Trusti and welbeloved we grete you wele, lating you wite that wee bee fully purposed with the grace of our Lord to bee at Lichefield on Twysday now commyng, on Monday at our toun of Asthebourne and on Thursday next ensuying at our town oI Chestrefield. Wherefore we woll and desire you to mete with us at our commyng at the said parties, and to com- mande on our behelf our offrcers and tenanntes within your ofhces to doo in like wyse. Geven under our signet at Teukesbury the iiii day of October.


This letter is swiftly followed up by a second letter which asks Vernon to find out how the rest of the gentry in Derbyshire feel about Clarence.  It should be noted that Clarence did own some manors in Derbyshire and his cousin was married into the Talbot family. A third letter sounds a note of panic with the news that Edward is on his way back to England. By the time Vernon received it, Edward had already landed at Ravenspur and was making his way south.

Yet another letter, this time from the earl of Warwick describes Edward as a “gret enemy rebelle and traitour is now late arrived in the North partes of this land and commyng fast on Southward accompanyed with Flemminge, Esterlands and Danes.” The letter is a commission of array.  Essentially it orders Sir Henry to gather men and join Warwick’s army immediately in order to maintain the rule of Henry VI (or rather the earl of Warwick who preferred the idea of being a puppet master to that of loyal subject.)

Sir Henry is then in receipt of several more letters from the duke of Clarence.  Clarence is marching from Malmsbury, at the end of March ostensibly to intercept his brother Edward. By the 2nd of April he is in Burford and from there he went to Coventry and  instead of fighting his brother joined with him against the earl of Warwick.

Sir Henry’s next letter is from King Edward IV who wrote from Tewkesbury:

Margaret late called Queene is in our handes, her son Edward slayn Edmund called Duc of Somerset, John Erl of Devonshire with all the other lords knightes and noblemen that were in their company taken or slayn, yet we now understand that commones of divers partes of this our royaume make murmurs and commocions entending the distruccion of the churche, of us our lords and all noblemen, and to subvert the public of our said royome which we in our persone with Goddes helpe and assistance of you and other trewe subgettes shall mightly defend the same and we woll that ye be with us.

Clearly Sir Henry had avoided the various battlefields and kept his head down, though it would appear that he had made a list of his valuables which he pledged to Edward’s support.

Once Edward had won the Battle of Tewksbury and Prince Edward was killed the end of Henry VI, a prisoner in the Tower, was inevitable. Sir Henry Vernon along with the rest of the country would reasonably have expected Edward to reign for a good long while and then to have been succeeded by his sons – Elizabeth Woodville having produced the first male heir, another Prince Edward, whilst she was in sanctuary in Westminster. Vernon’s loyalty to the house of York is made apparent in a letter from Edward IV of 1481:

we bee enformed that ye have taken distresse for us and in oure name for thomage due unto us in that behalve for the which we thanke vou.

He was also appointed Bailiff of the High Peak by the York regime.

Then, in 1483, it was all change again.  Edward IV died unexpectedly whilst his eldest son Edward was still too young to inherit in his own right. Enter Richard III and yet another commission of array for Sir Henry Vernon to meet the king on the field against Henry Tudor.  Vernon appears to have avoided Bosworth.

It is thus somewhat surprising that Sir Henry thrived under the rule of Henry Tudor.  Having said that Vernon married Anne Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury in 1466 so the Talbot Lancastrian links and the fact that the earl of Shrewsbury joined with Henry Tudor prior to the Battle of Bosworth may go rather a long way to explaining how Sir Henry Vernon survived the change from white rose to red. He became Governor and Treasurer to Prince Arthur and was also made a Knight of the Bath. He was in attendance when Arthur married Katherine of Aragon.  Local legend states that Arthur stayed at Vernon’s home in Derbyshire – Haddon Hall- on more than one occasion.

There is a letter from Henry VII dated 1485.  It describes Vernon as “trusty and well beloved” and it describes in some detail the problem of a Yorkist insurrection led by the anonymous Robin of Redesdale requesting that Vernon place himself at Henry’s disposal.  In fact the first attempt on Henry VII’s life was made in York when he first visited it. A later letter identifies the trust that Henry placed in Vernon in the care of his eldest son:


Henry VII to Sir Henry Vernon.
1492, Aug 31. Windsor. Trusti and welbeloved we grete you wele. And inasmoche as we have appointed you tobe Comptroller of household with our derrest son the Prince and that we depart in all hast on our voyage over the see, we therefor desire and praye you that ye will give your personell attendaunce upon our said derrest son for the tyme we shalbe out of this our realme, and that ye faile not hereof as we truste you’ Geven under our signet at our Castel of Windesor the last day of August viii of our reyne. Sign Manual

Later still Vernon would go with Margaret Tudor to Scotland and pay a forced loan of £100 to the notoriously parsimonious Tudor monarch.

Sir Henry survived into the reign of Henry VII which ended in 1509.  He would now serve the second Tudor monarch.  In 1512/13 Henry VIII wrote to Sir Henry Vernon ordering him to send “a hundred tal men hable for the warre sufficiently harnessed to Greenwich.” This must have been for Henry’s war against the french.  The letter also advises Vernon that money would be expected for the men’s upkeep.

Sir Henry Vernon, who had lived through so many tumultuous events died on April 15th 1515 and was buried in Tong Church where his wife Anne Talbot is also buried.  His effigy wears the double ss livery collar of the House of Lancaster and there is a Tudor rose to be seen – just so that everyone is quite clear about where his loyalties lay…

Kirke, H. (1920) ‘Sir Henry Vernon of Haddon.’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal:42. (pp. 001-017).


Filed under Fifteenth Century, The Tudors, Wars of the Roses

Murder in church – Derbyshire style.

It is starting to amaze me just how often Derbyshire is turning up in the footnotes of History in my reading at the moment.  Take the murder that occurred in St Mary’s Church, Chesterfield for example – and yes, that is the church with the twisted spire that legend blames on Old Nick but History blames on lack of skilled workmen following the Black Death.

Anyway, my story involves Ralph Cromwell, Henry VI’s Lord Treasurer (in a roundabout way), his henchman and his henchman’s enemies. Cromwell whose main residence was Tattershall castle in Lincolnshire expanded into Derbyshire via the manors of Tibshelf and South Wingfield (more commonly associated with Mary Queen of Scots these days).  His ownership of the aforementioned manors was contested by Sir Henry Pierrepoint (or Pierpoint) from Nottinghamshire. Castor explores the resulting factions in The King, The Crown and the Duchy of Lancaster and concludes that the Lancaster Affinity had split along geographical lines as well as personal ones.

Pierrepoint tried to build up his lands around Chesterfield which resulted in the enmity of Thomas Foljambe of Walton.  The Foljambes had been the leading family in Chesterfield for rather a long time and weren’t keen on yielding their position.  Consequentially when Pierrepoint leased the Manor of Chesterfield from the countess of Kent things were set to become grim.  Even worse the countess let Pierrepoint run the annual and no doubt very lucrative annual fair.

Foljambe sent in his thugs to disrupt the fair.  The countess prepared to take him to court. Foljambe blamed Pierrepoint to the extent that he took a bloody revenge on new Years Day 1434 – and remember New Year’s day was deemed to be in March.

First Foljambe nobbled the parish clerk – a man named Thomas Mogynton.  Mogynton’s jobs were two fold.  He was ordered to lock possible ways of escape from the church and secondly to ring the bells to summon Foljambe and his men.

The accounts vary as to the number of attackers – but let’s just say Foljambe arrived with sufficient men to kill all of Pierrepoint’s party – Henry Longford, William Bradshaw and Thomas Hasilby who were there to hear Mass.  Pierrepoint left half his men outside the church so that Pierrepoint’s men couldn’t escape and then when Moygnton rang the bell he entered with the other half of his men with their weapons drawn.

The vicar, Richard Dawson, tried to halt the bloodshed but he was ordered back to the altar.

Sir Henry lost the thumb and two fingers of his right hand making it impossible for him to fight. Meanwhile two of his companions were murdered.  Henry Longford was Pierrepoint’s  brother-in-law, as well as his squire. Only Hasilby escaped. Longford and Bradshaw died in the church. Pierrepoint was dragged from the church and was only spared when Richard Foljambe of Bonsall argued  for mercy.

Inevitably justice  for a double murder and a maiming was a protracted affair. There were two juries.  The second one, composed of Derbyshire gentry, was inclined to blame Pierrepoint for everything whilst the first one  composed of Pierrepoint’s friends and family tended to see things differently.

Somewhere along the way, before the first trial before a jury of Pierrepoint’s friends Foljambe had managed to acquire a dodgy lawyer who ensured that the indictment against Foljambe had the word “junior” after Foljambe’s name meaning that it was his ten-year-old son up on the charge: which even by the standards of the time was taking things a bit far. The same lawyer even presented the jury with a list of men who had taken part in the attack.  The only problem was that the jury noticed that the list was largely fictitious.

The matter was unresolved for twenty years – I bet there were some tense encounters during that time. In September 1454 – so at the time of Richard of York’s first protectorate, matters were finally dealt with. Foljambe and those of his men who were still alive found themselves incarcerated in the Marshalsea Prison to await trial. One of the men on the jury who put them there wasn’t entirely unbiased: Sir Henry Pierrepoint must have enjoyed himself enormously.

Unfortunately for my story the jigsaw piece of History that has disappeared down the back of the chronological sofa on this occasion is the trial and what happened next.  And there’s no picture because my pictures of Chesterfield Church are so old that the word digital wasn’t something that was associated with cameras!

Castor, Helen. (2000) The King, The Crown and the Duchy of Lancaster , 1399-1461 Oxford: Oxford Univeristy Press

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